Toronto’s Word on the Street Book & Magazine Festival runs June 11 & 12 at Queen’s Park Circle. In preparation for the event, we’re profiling some of the writers who will be featured during the festival.
The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.
Click Here to follow the series as it progresses.
To submit an author for consideration, email email@example.com.
“Nic Brewer is a queer writer and editor from Toronto. She writes fiction, mostly; her first novel, Suture, was published by Book*Hug in Fall 2021. She is the co-founder of Frond, an online literary journal for prose by LGBTQI2SA writers, and formerly co-managed the micropress words(on)pages. She doesn’t look like her author photo, doesn’t have an MFA, and really wants to hear about what you love most in the world. She lives in Kitchener with her wife and their dog.”
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
This is a bit of a funny question for me! I have always known I wanted to write, and my parents still have the silly little books and stories I wrote when I was a kid still learning how to write (literally). But I go in and out of wanting to be a writer! Writing is the only thing that has ever come naturally to me, and I will always do it, and I hope I’ll continue to make books, but I also love many more things than writing; after my difficult and dramatic twenties, I don’t think I want the writer life any more, and I’m happy to just keep writing outside of my job and other hobbies. (That said, if I somehow became independently wealthy and never again had to work a day in my life, I would very happily make writing my full-time job.)
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I’m not sure if it’s actually the first thing I ever wrote, but the first thing I remember writing was a story about a caterpillar that started to eat a potted flower, but it hurt the flower when the caterpillar started to take a bite–much to the caterpillar’s surprise. The flower yelped, and asked the caterpillar to stop, which it did. They worked together to find a new meal for the caterpillar, although I don’t recall what it was.
How did you develop your skills?
Reading, mostly! Reading and practice, I suppose. Although, I would be extremely curious to know what other people would deem my skills. In my mind, my talent is for articulating and clarifying difficult feelings and concepts in a way that makes them accessible to readers who may not be coming in with any particular knowledge or experience relating to the subject — and that was a skill that came accidentally from a lifetime of trying desperately to make my feelings understood to the people who loved me. My wife hates writing — she says she can never find the right words — and so when I’m helping her write a message I always start with, “What are you looking to convey?” My skill has been honed by asking myself that question over and over again, every time I have sat down to write anything. As for the writing, the style, the flair, that is all thanks to reading. When I read, if something is resonating with me, I spend time with it and I ask why it feels so powerful, and this has helped me to identify little tricks and isms that I’ve folded into my own personal style.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
My biggest literary influences turn over every few years, which is personally wonderful but makes answering this question feel unwieldy. When I started writing, my biggest influences where all men: Ernest Hemingway, for the way a whole universe was packed into such brevity; George Orwell, for the way his non-fiction reads like a brilliant and captivating novel and for showing me that fiction doesn’t necessarily mean not true; and David Foster Wallace, for his unabridged genius, for refusing to cater to any reader, for the painful sincerity of his writing. But from that foundation, I have encountered so many incredible women writers, queer writers, and writers of colour that have reshaped writing and storytelling for me: Guadalupe Muro, Miriam Toews, Anakana Schofiled, Virginia Woolf, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Eimear McBride, Carmen Maria Machado, and Helen Oyeyemi to name only a few.
My favourite book for many, many years was Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, but it was usurped a few years ago by Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
How would you describe your work?
Strange and full of feelings.
What’s your writing process like?
Also strange and full of feelings. Feelings are one of the biggest driving factors for my writing: sometimes, to identify them; other times, to share them. It is so lonely to have feelings alone, and I write to make it less lonely for myself and for my readers.
But that is likely not the kind of answer this question is looking for. I work full-time and have a dog and a partner, so many things vy for attention in my free time, and writing doesn’t always win. Sometimes it feels like I work on a project secretly in the back of my mind for weeks or months without writing a single word, and then I’ll take a day to sit down and type it, and it comes out almost fully formed. I write this way while I read, while I walk my dog, while my wife and I drive around Ontario, I write this way on Saturday mornings when I sleep in and make my tea slowly, when I steam milk for a London fog, when I water my plants. I write this way when I can’t get out of bed for the weight of depression, when I twitch from anxiety, when I cry, when I stop myself from crying. Sometimes I think I am writing all the time, somewhere, and I am lucky to see it find its way into words when I finally have a moment to let it loose.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent book is a short novel called Suture (Book*Hug Press, 2021) that is set in a world where artists have to literally use their bodies to make art (blood, eyes, skin, bones), and it is a novel about mental health. It was ten years in the making and captures a third of my life, and it is a tender and queer approach to body horror that aims to identify–cherish, criticise, observe–the tiny cruelnesses artists commit and forgive in themselves, the cruelnesses people commit and forgive in others. It is gory and vulnerable, but mostly it is gentle, and I wrote it for you.
What are you working on now/next?
In practice, I’ve been unbelievably busy for the past year or so and I haven’t actively been working on anything. But in that non-writing way, I have been working on two projects: one is a collection of essays called What I Have and Have Not Learned, and it explores life with depression, anxiety, and autism, coming out late in life, losing a friend to suicide, and my long-term abusive relationship. It is achingly sincere but hopefully funny, and might be the kind of thing that nobody ever wants to publish and I don’t mind — writing it has been a gift in and of itself. The other is a haunted house novel, which is in the very earliest stages of existence, because I’ve recently become obsessed with how ghosts and haunted houses can tell trauma unlike any other genre.
Nic will be appearing at the Word On The Street festival Sunday June 12th from 10 – 11 AM at the Across The Universe Stage.